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´The space between artwork and observer`

A portrait about the artist Jana Jacob

"I've been painting myself for a year. This can also be a trace of self-expression or latent exhibitionism. It is precisely this exhibitionist that I find exciting, as it brings the viewer into an intimate moment."

Jana Jacob painting in her Atelier, photographed by Oscar Barbosa for BAAM, 2023.
Jana Jacob in her Atelier. © Oscar Barbosa, 2023.

Living in Berlin, Jana Jacob devotes herself to painting and embodies a profound intimacy on her canvases. Her works of art show vulnerability, naturalness and emotional depth. She explores with her art spaces in between; those that take place between people and those who hide behind facades.

Originally, Jana Jacob comes from Weingarten, on Lake Constance. After her school days in Ravensburg, she studied at the State Academy of Fine Arts in Stuttgart. Her diploma thesis "reinraus" deals with different facets of intimacy. Her artistic career is also characterized by various study stays abroad, in which she has engaged with performative art, contemporary dance arts and video art. Among other things, she also lived for three months in San Francisco in a kind of artist community with the students and her then professor where she devoted herself to experimental art. Since the beginning of her work, she saw the craft of painting rather playfully and her drive was always the freedom that art gives her. For her, it's about being able to let go and explore what's going on behind the eyes.

The artistic muse was in her family. Both her grandmother and her mother were both very artistic. Her father lives a traditionally Buddhist life and taught her the teachings of this faith at an early age. Her mother was a single parent. For Jana Jacob, artistic freedom became early on like an antidote to the rather stricter structures of her parents' home.

For her, the freedom of art is something unlimited. Her matter is to sweep her innermost feelings to the outside and show herself to others without having to make herself completely naked. Nudity is also always a metaphorical topic in her pictures. As a level of transmission between the work of art and the viewer, she can paint and load on it as much as she likes. This creates intimate moments between artist and viewer. This space is protected and can serve the viewers as an extension of their own perception. The interpretations of Jana Jacobs artworks often varying and they give the opportunity to explore spaces, feelings and communication.

She used to do judo, which gave her inspiration to artistically work on the emotional background of the sport within her studies. Often martial arts such as judo or boxing would be seen as something very profiling, masculine, she believes. It seemed important to her to give space to intimacy in addition to the strength. For her, it has something totally intimate when the fighters lie in each other's arms in the middle of the fight.

Her pictures are artworks of her own philosophy. They sometimes radiate calm, sometimes chaos. Some people feel a connection to the models in the pictures, some see a certain sadness in them. Jana Jacob is convinced that the meaning of her images arises in the subjective eye of the viewers, in the window to the soul as she describes it. Especially the relationship between proximity and distance plays a decisive role for her. She analyzes different feelings and defines boundaries, plays with them and transmits them in her creative process. Through the art of Jana Jacob, the viewers are brought discreetly exhibitionist or even perhaps voyeuristic into an intimate moment. In each of her picture series and in each individual sequence, this can have very different, unique shapes.

One of her picture series is called "HOME" and shows people in their home, naked and with empty facial expressions. Some pictures are full-body portraits, others show individual body parts or sometimes just the face.

For the women she painted, it was more difficult to look at themselves than for the men, she says. She believes that this is related to the image of women in society. It is also challenging for many women to show themselves from a vulnerable, natural side. It was particularly important to her in this series that the people did not pose. The images should be beyond beauty ideals. She wanted to show the people pure and unadorned. So she waited so long to take a photo and stage the scene until the people dropped their faces from everyday life. This is only possible if a high level of mutual trust arises in the process, she thinks.

In her series, "Caress" she has analyzed a gesture, an embrace of two people in different stages. You see a back and a hand that slowly strokes the back down. There are a total of seven pictures, in each the hand goes a little further. She wanted to stretch this one gesture in the room cinematically. In her work, the transmission field for the thoughts of the viewers is often the skin she paints. It becomes an area that offers a spectrum of meaning.

Jana Jacob sees creative inspiration in her entire environment. Her „viewfinder“, as she names it, is running all the time. It is everyday moments, small gestures, in the tram or in a restaurant that touch her. She believes because they can convey feelings that many miss. She thinks it is often difficult to be open in these moments and to be touched in which something can happen interpersonally. In her opinion, this is much related to the constant fixation and isolation of our smartphones.

The importance of femininity can be recognized particularly well in her series "LEAVE THE DOOR OPEN," says Jana Jacob. They are self-portraits that show sensitivity to the body with natural stimuli. The name of the series came from those moments when you are with yourself. The topic is the own privacy of these intimate moments but also the feeling of embarrassing touch when it is broken. For her, it is about showing access and allowing it openly. Most of the pictures of this series are more women-specific for the artist; they are scenes in which she closes her scirt behind her back or paints her toenails.
She combines these situations with a certain feeling that many women know. In terms of femininity, these gestures for the artist basically have something to do with doing something good for yourself. Being with yourself in a moment and taking time for yourself, that means spirituality for her. She does not necessarily want to describe her art as feminist, what interests her more is the personal and psychological, which happens behind everyone's eyes. She does not want to represent the classic sexually connoted, but to bring human closeness to the screen.

LEAVE THE DOOR OPEN in Kiez Cafe Kraft in Prenzlauer Berg, 2024.
LEAVE THE DOOR OPEN by Jana Jacob. ©️magazinesuspiria, 2024.

In the series, in which individual body parts are shown almost without the genitals or the head, there is something liberal. They are playful and have a "look-hole feeling" as Jana Jacob describes it. She wanted to make it feel like she was secretly present at an intimate moment of two people. She wants to achieve in such a way that the viewers feel strangely touched. If, on the other hand, her art does not trigger anything at all, she thinks it's a pity. She often looks at individual parts of the body when she paints and she relates them to each other. Like characters, they are given a special meaning by body language and you can see in the works whether a person feels comfortable or wants to protect himself.

Today Jana Jacob paints mainly with oil paints. It is a long process of creation: the outcome is ideas that she usually implements through photographs. She stages a scene, plays with perspectives and lighting conditions and creates snapshots that convey different feelings. In this artistic process, it plays a big role for her to wait for a certain moment, until it is forgot as much as possible that a camera is there and the people can relax. This has something playful-performative, she says: "What happens in such moments about gestures and facial expressions can be totally poignant." As with acting and dance, there is something experimental and interpersonal to get involved in the moment.
When she paints, she goes from the rough to the lighting conditions, from the shadows to the detail. Most of the time, the proportions are already right, she says. Depending on what she wants to produce. In total, she is currently working on one project for about two weeks. She has become faster, she says, but everything takes time. The primers, the drying processes and the production of the picture frames, which she also makes herself.

Artists who inspire her and she likes are Egon Schiele and Lucien Freud, among others. Both painters, like herself, focus on the human body and experiment with shapes and proportions. "Lucien Freud works very roughly, you can recognize individual brush strokes. His art can be very reminiscent of that of Egon Schiele, who was always able to capture this great expression of people in his pictures," she says.

She can now live from her art which gives her personally a lot of freedom. Jana Jacob exhibits her art through galleries and artistic initiatives and works with various artists worldwide. Her last major exhibition was at the BAAM (Berlin Affordable Art Market) in the summer of 2023. At the BAAM, over a hundred artists exhibit their art every year and thus make it more accessible to a wide audience. At the moment, she is exhibiting her art at the Kiezcafe Kraft in Prenzlauer Berg.

The artist has many other projects planned for the future. She would like to work with other artists and organize exhibitions independently. She recently developed an exhibition concept together with a friend, with which they applied together. In any case, her wish is to continue living in Berlin, as she appreciates the city very much for its possibilities.
A main message of the artist's work is to perceive vulnerability and uniqueness as something beautiful for everyone, regardless of gender. It is clear that in all intermediate moments in the space among people, feelings always play a decisive role. Including shame, shame avoidance and fear which influence our human communication a lot.
It remains exciting to experience the dynamics between the observer and the artwork, without having to create something unchangeable. Jana Jacob is experiencing a continuous change, every art work becomes a creation of a process. The intimacy and warmth she represents appeal and it is perceived as pleasant to find yourself in it.

follow her on instagram or check out her website


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